For all of the Iowa exploration I’ve done, until this weekend I still hadn’t found my way to the Amana Colonies. While there are technically seven villages that make up Amana, we stuck to exploring Main Amana and taking in the Prelude to Christmas festivities for this trip.
Albeit being the most touristy of the villages, Amana is especially fun to explore this time of year. We explored the Tannenbaum Forest, ducked in and out of shops (fair warning: you’ll likely run into a hefty amount of tchotchkes here) and learned a bit more about Iowa’s long-standing communal society.
A brief history of the Amana Colonies
According to the Amana Heritage Society‘s website, the “Amana religion has its roots in the movement of Pietism and Mysticism which flourished in Germany in the early 1700s.” In 1842, members from one sect of the Amana religion, known as the Community of True Inspiration, sailed for America and first settled on land near what is now Buffalo, New York.
In the coming years, more than 800 Inspirationalists came to America and settled in the communal society that had come to be known as Ebenezer. The community quickly outgrew the land and decided to go west in search of a new home. In 1855, the first village of Amana was settled along the Iowa River, and by 1863, there were six more villages.
Until the 1920s, the citizens of the Amana Colonies lived a communal lifestyle, largely removed from the influences of the outside world. However, largely influenced by innovations to communication and transportation as well as the Great Depression, the Amana Society voted to abandon its former way of life in 1932.
Amana Heritage Museum (4310 220th Trail)
We were lucky enough to visit on a day where the Amana Heritage Museum was offering free admission—typically tickets are $8 for adults and free for kids. Stop in to watch a video about Amana’s history in the schoolhouse’s old knitting room where generations of students made garments to keep the communal society’s residents warm through the winter.
The museum also currently has an exhibit commemorating the Amana Church’s 300th anniversary, which is pretty incredible. Overall there were a ton of really well-preserved artifacts—like the original passport of Christian Metz, who led the Amana people to Iowa—and some great information if you’re a bit of a history nerd.
Tips & tricks
If you’re unfamiliar with the Amana Colonies, a great place to start is the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau (622 46th Avenue in Amana). This is where you’ll find helpful information and a slew of maps to help you navigate the seven villages.
While a lot of the local shops sell similar touristy tchotchkes, hit up the General Store for a collection of Amana-produced goods and swing by the Christmas Room for a heaping dose of holiday cheer.